Monday, December 09, 2019

A 21st century view of the Nativity

Claremont United Methodist Church in California displayed this as their view of Christ's birth.

Does it remind you of immigration in the 21st century?

Talk about a bad investment

Our investment in Afghanistan has cost us more than $2 trillion. Here's a breakdown:

$1.5 trillion waging war yet the Taliban control or contest much of the country.

$10 billion on counternarcotics but Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of the world’s heroin.

$87 billion to train Afghan military and police forces but Afghan forces still can’t support themselves.

$24 billion on economic development and still most Afghans live in poverty.

$30 billion on other reconstruction programs but much of that money was lost to corruption and failed projects.

$500 billion on interest on borrowed money to fund the war.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s largest sources of refugees and migrants. More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died.

Buy your pork from Denmark

The use of more antibiotics can result in dangerous germs having more opportunities to evolve and outsmart drugs designed to kill them. Drug-resistant infections now claim 700,000 lives a year around the world, including 35,000 in the United States. Without bold action, the United Nations has estimated drug-resistant pathogens could claim 10 million lives globally by 2050.

Denmark, which is a major producer of pork, has cut way back on the use of antibiotics on
pigs. Here, they use antibiotics at a rate seven times higher than that of Danish farmers. In Denmark one quarter or more of some swine arrive at the abattoir without ever having received any antimicrobial drugs.

A different approach to climate change

The Nature Conservancy has made a deal with the government of the Seychelles Island to attack the problems of the ocean due to climate change. The Conservancy has given the Seychelles $21,000,000 and assumed 5% of the country's debt. The agreement calls for the government to protect 30% of its national waters. One way they are doing this is by controlling fishing. In many areas the people can fish in the local bay for only six months of the year. In other areas, tourism, as well as fishing, is restricted. The country's military and police forces are monitoring the situation.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Faster than a speeding bullet

A new record has been set for the Cannonball Run, a drive from Manhattan to Redondo Beach, California. Three men drove their specially equipped Mercedes-Benz across the country in 27 hours and 25 minutes, beating the previous record of 28 hours and 50 minutes.

Their average speed was 103 miles per hour, and the highest was 193. The car could produce more than 800 horsepower.

Courtesy of our Florida correspondent

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Should I be frightened?

I just finished a review of "Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers" by Andy Greenberg in the NY Review of Books. Frankly, I am frightened. The book recounts a number of successful cyberattacks, many of which I had not heard about. Many of the attacks were on industrial control systems, such as those used for health care, transportation, agriculture, defense, infrastructure.

Did you know that from 2011 to 2013 Iranian hackers broke into the servers of banks and financial firms, including JPMorgan Chase, American Express, and Wells Fargo, and besieged them for 144 days? Or in 2017 Russian hackers found their way into the systems of one hundred American nuclear and other power plants. Another hacking group disabled the safety controls at a Saudi Arabian oil refinery. 

Russian hackers have gone after ex-Russian territories. In 2007 Estonia hit with a cyberattack that shuttered media, banking, and government services over twenty-two days. Georgia was hit with a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack that took down media outlets and military command centers. In 2015, it was a Kiev-based television company plus the airport and railroads, the power grid so that there was no heat, no transportation, no way to get money or use a credit card, little food.

Music can last a long time

Last night I attended a concert here at Duncaster. The performers were "Entwyned+, a trio that focuses on music from 1600 - 1750. And, they play the music on instruments reproduced from that time. Their first song got me. It was "Greensleeves". Did you know that it was played in 1580, over 400 years ago? I didn't recognize anything else but the music was beautiful.

They played a number of instruments: lutes (like guitars), viola da gamba, traversos (flutes) and harps.

Listen to "Greensleeves